News from the OPM

Opening Ceremony of 14th annual Organisation Of Caribbean Utility Regulators

Address by

The Most Honourable Andrew Holness, ON, MP

Prime Minister of Jamaica

at the

Opening ceremony of

14th annual OOCUR

@ 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Secrets Hotel and Spa

Montego Bay

“Regulation: Creating a Spectrum of Opportunities for the Caribbean”

Salutations

 

  • The Most Reverend Kenneth D.O Richards – Roman Catholic Archbishop of Kingston
  • Andrew Wheatley, Minister of Science, Energy, and Technology
  • Hilary Alexander, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Science, Energy, and Technology
  • Other Permanent Secretaries present
  • Albert Gordon, Chaman of OOCUR
  • Joseph Matalon, Chairman of the Office of Utilities Regulation in Jamaica
  • Distinguished Guest Speakers
  • Heads of Government Department and Agencies
  • Members of the Private Sector including utility companies
  • Members of the media
  • Ladies and gentlemen

 

Good morning!

 

It gives me great pleasure to speak with you at this the start of the 14th annual conference of the Organisation Of Caribbean Utility Regulators, OOCUR as we begin our conversations of how do we get the right mix to ensure all stakeholders are fully served.

 

I know that this conference is a signature event for regional regulators, the industry and service providers.  Let me welcome all participants from across the Caribbean region and interest groups in North America to Jamaica.

Indeed, your focus this year: “Regulation: Creating a spectrum of Opportunity for the Caribbean” is what I would call ‘Mission Critical’ to the way forward in the whole regulatory landscape. Your gathering here provides a good opportunity for you to review current issues affecting those you serve and all stakeholders in the industry.

 

Over the past decade, the regulatory sector has evolved in response to greater consumer demand, government compliance regimes, new technologies, and improved understanding of consumers about their rights.

 

Indeed, some of the issues being faced in today’s regulatory environment did not exist a decade ago.

 

However, at the heart of the issue of regulation is two opposite but not necessarily competing partners.

 

  1. The Investor – the utility company most of which operate in a private sector but government regulated environment
  2. The Consumer- needing service, reliability, and value for money

 

I would also factor in a third partner:

 

  1. Government – which must be a fair, just and transparent arbiter in ensuring the rights of the investor to make a return on investment while being advocating for a reliable, affordable utility.

 

And so, a delicate balance must be found to ensure partnership among all stakeholders in an evolving arena.

 

And so permit me to raise a few issues on partnership at the national level here in Jamaica before I go onto looking at a broader regional thrust.

 

Jamaica’s Office of Utilities Regulation, OUR has been policing the Utilities sector which covers electricity and the push to diversify our current offerings, the water commission and the telecommunications providers.

 

While government has concerns in some areas, let me congratulate the OUR for its work in keeping the providers on their toes.

 

The OUR has been jealously guarding the best interest of consumers and sometimes they get criticized (unfairly so from sections of the society) for not doing enough. But by and large the statistics have vindicated the OUR’s relevance:

 

  • Between January and June 2016 the OUR’s Consumer Affairs Unit received one thousand five hundred and sixty eight (1568) complaints from utility customers. 184 of the complaints were resolved by the OUR while the remaining amount was sent the relevant service providers for resolution.

 

  • Again, during the 1st half of the year the OUR’s Consumer Affairs Unit, through its action, was able to secure just under $2-million dollars ($1,932,983) as compensation for utility customers.

 

And here is the other end of the spectrum….

 

  • The country has seen continued investment in the telecoms sector, with Digicel, FLOW and the 3rd entrant CARICEL
  • The government remains focused on promoting renewable energy to align with our goal of economic growth and job creation and to align with Jamaica’s 2030 Vision for development

 

  • And continued investment in reliable water source and the distribution network.

 

So we applaud the robust efforts in being a watch dog for the sector by the OUR. However, this is not to say that there are no loop holes that we will address as an administration.

 

Indeed, with my administrations push for economic growth and job creation, we must critically align some key areas to reflect this.

 

 

Let me also take a few minutes to tap into a few local issues regarding the Jamaica Public Service Company.

 

Jamaica was twice this year left in darkness for some hours, first in April then in August as there was a systems breakdown at JPS.

 

The OUR has in both instances asked the JPS to give a comprehensive report on the matters. As the captain of our Jamaica ship I have been watching to see what is taking place and how we will resolve it.

 

Let me take this opportunity to inform you that the second report is due to the OUR by next Monday and the OUR will determine sanctions.

 

However, ahead of the report what I am certainly pleased about without trying to single out the JPS is the move to self-regulate by the JPS. And so they like some instances in telecoms, have moved to implement so changes which I understand include looking to engage specialists to deal with the overall transformation of their system.

 

JPS is a major partner in the government’s move to diversify the island’s energy mix.

 

I am pleased to announce, that in another two weeks, Jamaica’s dream of brining Liquefied Natural Gas, LNG to the country will be fully realized.

 

This of course is a true testament to the work of the OUR in making the project a reality. The OUR approved the funding for the conversion of the JPS Bogue power plant, to enable the move from heavy dependence on oil to diversifying to LNG. I applaud the OUR in this regard for being a strong regulator and helping to make this move a reality to take Jamaica on this platform. In addition, JPS’s partner New Fortress has committed to investing over US$750M with the construction of the plant in Monetgo Bay and the LNG terminal. By bring LNG to Jamaica, this administration expects it will be beneficial to various areas of the economy. This is a great example of collaboration among government, regulator and utility.

 

Let me now look at the wider Caribbean region, which is important to the work of OOCUR. As the region moves to develop a strategy for promoting Sustainable Energy, OOCUR has been selected to serve on the Policy and Regulations Working Group for Caribbean Sustainable Energy Roadmap and Strategy (C-SERMS).

 

Current energy models within the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) are heavily based on fossil fuels. In fact, Trinidad and Tobago is the only net exporter of energy in CARICOM.

 

The volatility of the oil price continues to be detrimental to economic planning and security and renewable energy and energy efficiency provide an option to reduce dependency on commodity markets.

 

Since 2002, began developing its Energy Policy and in 2008, the CARICOM Secretariat commenced the Energy Programme as one of the areas of work within the Directorate of Trade and Economic Integration. The Energy Programme is managed by the CARICOM Energy Unit, which was mandated to coordinate the finalisation of the regional energy policy and given responsibility for the strategic management of a programmatic approach to the region’s energy issues.

 

Approved in 2013, the CARICOM Energy Policy promotes a shift to sustainable energy through increased use of renewable energy sources and improvements in energy efficiency. In implementing the regional energy policy, there is a requirement for country‑level harmonization of policies and actions in several key areas.

 

  • The regulatory framework for promoting renewable power, as far as possible, including an Interconnection Policy that caters for the sale of excess power to the grid by both small scale renewable energy operators and commercial enterprises;
  • There is facilitation of renewable energy integration into the national grids, to include the upgrading of ageing transmission and distribution grids with modern, smart elements; and
  • There is increased cooperation and collaboration among complementary sectors related to energy including, tourism, manufacturing, waste management, agriculture, water, climate change, and transport with increased intersectoral coordination and greater cooperation between the public and private sectors on sustainable energy matters.

 

Therefore, OOCUR you have your work cut out for you. As not only is Jamaica focused on diversifying its energy mix so is CARICOM and we must get it right as a region.

 

Access to affordable energy services is a necessary requirement for addressing sustainable development within the region. The transformation of our energy economies from their current state of inefficiency and over‑dependence on imported fossil sources, which exposes us to the uncertainties and volatilities of mostly expensive global oil prices, to a state of greater efficiency and high penetration of clean indigenous renewable sources.

 

And so ladies and gentlemen as we deliberate in the conference I urge you to keep in mind the awesome responsibility you have in creating a regulatory environment that meets the needs of our time but one which will also be a future fit for the utility needs of our people.

 

To the utilities, a major part of the way forward is self-regulation and understanding that while profit is important service to the people will also and equally bring great rewards.

 

Critical new approaches and creative solutions must be integrated as part of a mission to move our people forward into a prosperous future.

 

And now I take great pleasure to officially declare open this 14th annual OOCUR conference. I trust your conversations will be robust and deliberations, comprehensive to serve all stakeholders in the utilities sector.